RUGBY: Draw made for First Trust Ulster Senior Cup semi-finals

Armagh RFC captain Ali Birch, Malone RFC captain Ross Todd, First Trust representative James Beattie, Ballymena RFC captain Roger McBurney and Ballynahinch RFC captain James Simpson pictured after the semi-final draw
Armagh RFC captain Ali Birch, Malone RFC captain Ross Todd, First Trust representative James Beattie, Ballymena RFC captain Roger McBurney and Ballynahinch RFC captain James Simpson pictured after the semi-final draw

Ballymena will host holders Ballynahinch in the First Trust Senior Cup semi final at Eaton Park.

The tie is a repeat of the final two years ago when Hinch emerged victorious - with the Ballymacarn Park side now going for their fourth consecutive cup win - a feat last achieved by North in 1896.

Hinch club captain James Simpson has played in the last three finals and he is hoping for a fourth winners medal come December.

“We don’t think about the previous years we take it one at a time and it is exciting, the cup is something we look forward too at the start of every season,” said Simpson.

“We want to be the best team in Ulster and that starts with the senior cup.”

Ballymena have won the cup on 14 occasions and have contested three of the last six finals.

The Braidmen last tasted success in 2012 and skipper Rodger McBurney knows they have a huge obstacle to get over in the semi final if they are to make the decider at Kingspan Stadium.

“Every year it is a big battle between Ballymena and Ballynahinch, home advantage is very important and it is the main thing,” said McBurney.

Armagh entertain Malone at the Palace Grounds in the other last four tie.

Armagh have never reach a final but having claimed the Senior League title last season captain Ali Birch wants to add the cup.

“It’s a competition we’ve never won before and we want to prove that we can manage that, a lot of boys have been grafting for years trying to get this far in the cup and have never achieved it,” said Birch.

“We are ready to kick on a bit further and prove that we can manage.”

Malone are flying high at the top of Division 2A of the All Ireland league but are looking for their first cup win since the 1991/92 season.

The Gibson Park club have contested seven finals since then losing them all the most recent coming against Hinch three years ago but captain Ross Todd feels Paddy Armstrong has assembled a squad that is capable of challenging on two fronts.

“Being away from home is never easy especially when it is Armagh, we’ll being seeing a lot of them having them in the AIL and now the cup, we have big ambitions for the team this year and we have strength in deep.”